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Arisaka Rifles - Rifles of the Imperial Japanese Army


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Arisaka Rifles - Rifles of the Imperial Japanese Army
Lecture for the HBSA
Imperial War Museum, London
This is a presentation delivered to a monthly meeting of the Historical Breechloading Smallarms Association (HBSA) in London, UK.
June 2010
by Warren Midgley

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Arisaka Rifles - Rifles of the Imperial Japanese Army

  1. 1. Historical Breechloading Smallarms Association Lecture at the Imperial War Museum, 21st June 2010 Arisaka Rifles - Imperial Japanese Army Service Rifles Warren Midgley Firearms first came to Japan in 1543 when a Portuguese ship ran aground on the island of Tanegashima, Okuma Province. These matchlocks were soon copied by the Japanese who already had a high level of steel making due to their swords. First Westerners in Japan, by Hokusai, 1817. Barely fifty years later, "by the end of the 16th century, guns were almost certainly more common in Japan than in any other country in the world", its armies equipped with a number of guns dwarfing any contemporary army in Europe (Perrin).
  2. 2. At this period in Japans history feudal warlords were fighting for supremacy and matchlocks came to have a decisive role. The Famous Daimyo who virtually unified Japan, Oda Nobunaga, made extensive use of guns, playing a key role in the Battle of Nagashino in 1575 where 3000 gunners protected by wooden stockades turned the battle in Nobunagas favour. Battle of Nagashino This civil war was finally won by Tokugawa Ieyasu who established the Shogunate which would rule Japan for 250 years. At this time Japan was closed to foreign influence with the 1635 Sakoku laws or ‘locked country’ coming into effect. The
  3. 3. Samurai lords of Japan introduced laws controlling firearms and the carrying of other weapons by non samurai. Japan was secluded from the modern world including developments in firearms up to 1852 where the American Commodore Perry and his fleet of ‘black ships’ entered Edo harbour and forced Japan to enter the modern world. Quickly realising the threat from the west and with a civil war developing, the Japanese started to rearm with firearms imported from the west. The Boshin war from 1868 to 1869 was fought between the Shogunate and the Imperial Faction. Tens of thousands of Dreyse, Chassepot, Minie, Snider and Spencer files as well as many American made handguns entered Japan. Tokugawa Yoshinobi, the last Shogun
  4. 4. The Imperial faction was victorious and Japan began to modernise and industrialise. A French military mission came to Japan in 1867-1868 and in 1871 a modern army was formed, the Imperial Japanese Army. Officers of the early Imperial Japanese Army
  5. 5. Domestic firearms design and production engineering began with Murata Tsuneyoshi, the father of IJA firearms. Murata Tsuneyoshi
  6. 6. As a Lieutenant he travelled in Europe visiting arsenals in France, Germany and Sweden and on his return to Japan designed the Murata 13 rifle based on the Gras and Beaumont. It was an 11mm single shot bolt action. Murata later refined his rifle with the Model 18. Muratas’ final rifle design was the Model 22, an 8mm with a tube magazine. Murat 13, 18 and 22 – Top to Bottom Murata rifles were used by the IJA during the 1894 Sino-Japanese war and while effective against the majority of the Chinese army armed with pikes and matchlocks the IJA came up against Prussian trained units armed with Mauser Rifles and the IJA formed a new rifle design commission in 1895.
  7. 7. This commission was headed by Arisaka Nariakira, 1852-1915, son of a minor Samurai he was adopted by a gunsmith Arisaka Nagayoshi and took the family name. He joined the Tokyo Arsenal in 1891. Arisaka Nariakira
  8. 8. The rifle that Arisaka’s team designed was the Type 30, adopted in 1897 it has a Mauser bolt and box magazine with a Mannlicher type separate bolt head and Metford style rifling. 600 thousand were produced along with 40 thousand carbines. Type 30 Rifle. Murata designed the ammunition for the Type 30, a 6.5x50 with a 161 grain round nose bullet at 2060 feet per second 6.5x50
  9. 9. Used during the Boxer rebellion in China in 1900 and the Russo-Japanses war in Korea 1904-1905 shortcomings were noticed in the Type 30, it was badly affected by dust and dirt and also easy to assemble the bolt incorrectly. Nambu Kijiro, 1868-1949,was called upon to rectify these problems. The most famous of Japanese firearms designers first produced the Type 35 which was rejected so went back to the drawing board and came up with his five objectives. 1. The rifle shall be easy to operate, disassemble and reassemble using no tools by a soldier with little training 2. The entire bolt assembly must be simplified, all parts must be incorporated into their simplest forms 3. The rifle must be strong and operate in the most adverse conditions 4. The rifle shall attain 100% reliability 5. The rifle must have a dignified appearance which will assure users will not abuse it With these in mind he designed the Type 38 or the San Pachi which was adopted in 1905. T38 rifle and carbine
  10. 10. The T-38 has a simple rugged bolt which is easy to disassemble with no tools and impervious to dust and mud. In 1907 the ammunition was also redesigned with a 139 grain spitzer bullet fired at 2400 feet per second. Over three million Type 38 rifles were produced from 1905 to the fall of Japan in 1945. The rifles were made at five main Arsenals. • Tokyo 1870-1935 • Kokura 1935-1945 • Nagoya 1923-45 • Jinsen (Korea) 1923-1945 • Mukden (Manchuria) 1931-1945
  11. 11. There were also numerous variants of the Type 38. The type 38 ‘horse rifle’ or cavalry carbine had a 19 inch barrel and side mounted sling swivels, over 400 thousand of these were made for cavalry, armour and support troops. A second cavalry rifle the Type 44 with a folding bayonet was also produced A sniper version, the Type 97 was produced with a 2.5x scope with a 10 degree field of view. The IJA had planned to have two sharpshooters in each rifle squad as early as 1904 but the lack of a optics industry held back these plans. The IJA’s sniper rifle development was further held back by the Tokyo earthquake of 1923 where original design work and prototypes were lost. T97 Scope reticule
  12. 12. All Arisakas could be fitted with the Type 30 Bayonet. A sword type with a 16 inch blade, first produced with a hooked quillion but simplified from the early 1940’s due to war production demands Type 30 bayonets, early to late, top to bottom.
  13. 13. In the late 1930’s the IJA decided to replace the 6.5.50 round with a harder hitting 7.7x58 developed at Kokura Arsenal. Firing a 175grain spitzer bullet at 2400 fps it was adopted in 1938 and a new rifle, the Type 99, a development of the T38 was adopted. The T-99 was a shorter rifle, and was easier to mass produce. It had some interesting ‘gadgets’ such as anti-aircraft wings on the sights and a wire monopod. The IJA also produced a take down version of the Type 99 for paratroops Type 2 Paratrooper rifle
  14. 14. Over 2 million Type 99 were produced, later war models becoming cruder as Japan began to run out of materials and USAF bombing destroyed their cities. Late model 99’s have fixed sights, poor finishing and are very rough, being known as ‘Last-Ditch’ rifles. Last Ditch T-99 The T38 and T99 actions were the strongest of any rifles of the Second World War. Post war tests proved the Japanese steel and Nambus bolt to have been the core components of the most rugged if not most accurate of any military rifle produced. Rifle Images by Kind permission of Teri of Nambuworld